The eye in the sky

An article on talks about a new type of surveillance camera called the ARGUS-IS which is capable of recording an area “half the size of Manhattan”. The articles goes on the say that “The newest in the family of “wide area persistent surveillance” tools, the system can detect and track moving objects as small as six inches from 20,000 feet in the air.” This technology also allows the operator to search for “suspicious activity” even after the recording has been made.

Could something like this eventually be an attack on the populations fourth amendment rights? What if a drone picks up what would be considered “suspicious” and could then fall under the Patriot Act? Would that persons fourth amendment rights really matter?

Here they list a few different ways local police and government officials are using such technology and also give a map where drones are being used. In the event of drug trafficking I could see how this could be beneficial as well as for fighting forest fires.

From what we’ve learned in class a Kantian view would make this morally wrong, as this would cause a lot of unrest within the population and would minimize “happiness” if applied universally. The same would fail in accords to utilitarian points of views. But what about cultural relativism?

9 Responses to The eye in the sky

  1. In regards to your claim that this would be morally wrong from a Kantian standpoint, I agree. However, this action is wrong from a Kantian standpoint not because the overall happiness is decreased, but because the personal rule behind this cannot be made into a universal rule. For example, if the personal rule behind the making of this new drone is “If I can make a drone that can detect suspicious activity by watching people when they think they’re alone I should,” then when this rule is made universal, it should still work. However, when this personal rule is made universal it contradicts itself. If everyone who could make this type of drone did, then there would be so many drones that people would know that they are never alone and thus the rule contradicts itself when it is universalized.

    • g.kelling is right that the Kantian evaluation would be based on non-universalizability considerations (not considerations about unrest and lost happiness). I also agree that it is plausible that the maxim he describes could not be universalized.

      But, as I’ve said before, our Kantian evaluations will depend on the maxim or intention that really explains the action. I wonder if there would be other intentions for surveillance that would be universalizable.

    • You have a very good point. Not exactly sure what I was thinking (or if I was really thinking at all). Your right that if everyone made a drone then we would all know that we are not alone. But if we knew that we were being watched all the time do you think it would deter malicious activity? I don’t necessarily think it would.

      I guess moving on the whole moral rights mess, these drone would violate a persons right to privacy, liberty and could also violate others. But as you stated earlier if everyone had drones roving the skies would it really matter if certain natural rights were being violated?

  2. This is a very interesting development. According to cultural relativism, I believe that having drones would be morally right. Maybe my logic is wrong, but if America is the said culture, America obviously believes that it must protect the country at all costs. That why we invest in our armed forces, military technology, and the well being of this country. Thus, it is morally right according to cultural relativism for drones to be in the sky, watching us. However, as g.kelling said, according to Moral Rights theory this act of having drones in the sky, even though it is with good intentions, imposes on the rights of liberty, privacy, and property. I dare to even go a step further and say that I can see a moral luck problem, where this drone cause cause huge problems in national security, even though the drone has intentions to do good. Just like we have learned in class, different moral theories can conflict on different subjects, and this case is no different.

    • This all sounds accurate to me. I am glad you brought up the point about cultural relativism.

      Drones do seem to be the source of numerous rights violations. So, then we might ask, why do people think they’re morally permissible?. The answer might be that they are judging on the basis of the norms and rules their culture–our culture–largely seems to accept.

  3. “eight in ten Americans (83 percent) approved of the Obama Administrations use of unmanned drones against suspected terrorists overseas — with a 59 percent strongly approving of the practice” – The American public loves drones

    A major of America culture do support droning (if that is a word) people so it is definitely moral right by “Cultural conformity”. However it would only be morally right in cultural relativism if the people judging are from the United State or another country that support droning.

    • That is correct. I don’t think you’re disagreeing with CailinP, but it is an important thing to keep in mind.